UConn never achieved the top spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll or the USA Today Coaches poll, mainly because Purdue outpaced them to the top of these week-by-week rankings and remained unbeaten for a longer period. Despite achieving a 14-0 record with 13 wins by a margin of 10 or more – including a 15-point victory against Alabama who secured the No. 1 overall seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament – UConn did manage to reach the #1 ranking on KenPom.Com and never dropped below 6th place in this widely consulted predictive metric.
No matter what, UConn has always been a powerhouse — even when it had a 2-6 record during the Big East portion of its season. This was made evident on Thursday evening when they beat Arkansas, 88-65, to progress to the West Regional Championship.
Dan Hurley, the coach of UConn, declared that they were in the position of having the opportunity to reach the Final Four, which was what they had expected since the start of the season.
The opportunity to make a change will be available Saturday against Gonzaga.
The atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will be charged with excitement.
UConn, the lower-ranked squad, began as a 2-point favorite despite its status, largely due to the impressive figures generated by computers, but also because of the squad’s sterling performance in the NCAA Tournament so far. The Huskies have been victorious in all three of their matches by comfortable margins of 24 (Iona), 15 (Saint Mary’s) and 23 (Arkansas) points. Their success has been almost effortless.
At the beginning of the game against Arkansas, UConn was up by a large margin, and they maintained their lead until the end. It was a thorough victory, similar to what Hurley had assured would happen in 2020.
Hurley warned, “We must be understood now. It’s urgent. Don’t wait; act now. Things are coming.”
Rest assured, it has arrived.
The Huskies have been rated at No. 3 for adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 13 for adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom, making them the only team in the Midwest Regional’s #1 seed to be in the top 13 for both categories. Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton can threaten opponents from the outside, and Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan can overpower them from the inside. In the game against Arkansas on Thursday, UConn had an impressive 57.4% field goal percentage while limiting Arkansas to 31.7%. Consequently, Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman wasn’t even given the opportunity to take off his shirt.
Musselman stated that UConn’s roster worked well together, citing Sanogo and Clingan as the two centers, along with strong perimeter shooting, and Newton’s length. He praised Jackson for his seven assists as a point-forward, rather than a standard small forward, as well as their effective offense and defense. He added that the team’s metrics revealed that they excel on both sides of the court.
Those numbers don’t lie.
They were reinforced Thursday.
At this moment, in Danny Hurley’s fifth year as head coach, UConn is one victory away from appearing in the Final Four for the first time since 2014 and just three triumphs away from achieving their fifth national title. Will they realize this goal? Only time will tell. Nonetheless, since December, the computers have indicated that they have the capacity to achieve it and their victory over Arkansas in the Sweet 16 further demonstrated their proficiency.